Returning from her office on the Paris Metro in 2007, Elizabeth Ragsdale began flipping through an issue of Us Weekly that the receptionist at the law firm where she worked as a paralegal had given her to her. But as she was about to delve into the magazine's stories about Lindsay Lohan and Brangelina, Ragsdale realized thatcover linewhat worried her:
"Brittany Murphy: Married to a Cheater?"
There, beside the actor from Clueless and 8 Mile, was Simon Monjack, the man Ragsdale had once loved. The guy who proposed to her with a Tiffany diamond ring just two weeks after they met. Your child's father.
“The first feeling I had was not jealousy. It wasn't, "How could he do that?" he recalls. "It was: 'That poor woman.'
Almost immediately, Ragsdale said he had started writing a letter to Murphy. She wanted to tell the 29-year-old newlywed that she thought Us Weekly was right: Monjack was a fraud. She wanted to tell the star how he lied, cheated and fantasized about her when she was four months pregnant with their child.
But by then, Ragsdale hadn't been romantically involved with Monjack for nearly a decade. And she never met Elijah, the boy she claimed to be her son. "I thought the letter would probably sound like me saying, 'He has a son.' He has to pay child support, and you have a lot of money, so you pay for him."
She never sent a letter. For the next 14 years, she kept the story a secret until this year, when filmmakers approached her to star in What Happened, Brittany Murphy? A two-part documentary series entitledpremieres Thursday on HBO Max,examine Murphyunexpected deathin 2009 at the age of 32 - an event that was shrouded in mystery and spawned countless conspiracy theories.
Monjack, who died in 2010 at the age of 40 just six months after Murphy, has long been at the center of this mystery. Murphy's cause of deathaccording to autopsyit was pneumonia, anemia and multiple drug poisoning; he had acute pneumonia and severe anemia. Both were found dead in the home they shared in the Hollywood Hills.
An investigation by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health ruled out the presence of toxic mold in his home. Forensic experts explained that traces of heavy metals were found in Murphy's hair, which his father Angelo Bertolotti said wasevidence of poisoning,were consistent with someone who regularly dyed their hair. And through it all, fans and tabloids alike questioned the nature of Murphy's relationship with Monjack. She previously dated wealthy artists such as Eminem and Ashton Kutcher. He was an independent film producer with little credit and a history of legal and financial troubles, having been forced to pay over $500,000 in two lawsuits in 2006 and 2007 and with four evictions to his name.
In the HBO Max series, Murphy's co-workers and filmmakers allege that Monjack was interested in Murphy for her money, as well as controlling various elements of her life: allegedly encouraging her to lose weight, forbidding her from filming intimate scenes with other men, and cutting his agents and managers.
Cynthia Hill, director of What's Happening, Brittany Murphy? began researching Monjack last summer when Blumhouse Television asked her if she would be interested in doing a non-fiction series about the star. Hill previously helmed the Emmy-nominated HBO seriesdocumentary about domestic violenceand was interested in exploring how "you don't have to be a poor woman living in rural North Carolina to fall victim to it. Someone in Hollywood who seems to have it all might as well be – and Brittany was.
But even twelve years after Murphy's death, few wanted to talk about it. Several relatives and members of his management team declined to attend, although Hill had better luck with other directors who had worked with Murphy, such as Amy Heckerling.("Uninformed")i Shawna Levy'ego("Newlyweds").
Taking a cue from former People magazine reporter Sarah Hammel, Hill approached Ragsdale, who declined to speak after Murphy's death. Ragsdale recalled that despite the passage of time, she hesitated, "Why do I have a horse in this race?" So she spoke to her 22-year-old son, who encouraged her to share a story she had just written in an unpublished diary. "If I can help a woman not do what I did - and what Brittany did - it would be worth it," she said.
Monjack never took a paternity test, so Ragsdale provided Hill with an email exchange between her and Monjack in which they discussed Elijah, as well as a photo of her pregnant with Monjack's parents. (The Times independently reviewed this documentation.)
Hill also spoke to a "list of women" with whom Monjack "engaged in the same pattern of behavior" who ultimately chose not to appear in the documentary series, she said. “It also gave us the confidence to believe in Elizabeth. We started to see the similarities between their stories and it was like, "Hmm."
"The Perfect Sacrifice"
Ragsdale met Monjack in Paris when she was 33. She spent the last decade in New York trying to make ends meet as an actress, but survived as a waitress and works as a paralegal. She landed a few small appearances - "One Life to Live", an off-Broadway show - and said she lost out to Edie Falco for her role as Carmela on The Sopranos. Then she decided to move to France in pursuit of another dream: writing.
She rented an apartment in Montmartre and forced herself to finish a certain number of pages a day. One night while I was writing, Ragsdale's phone rang. It was one of her American friends: “My boyfriend has a friend in town who is handsome and British. go out! They want to take us to dinner.
Seeing Monjack in the restaurant, Ragsdale was disappointed. He wasn't her type. She liked blondes and elegant men; he was dark and heavily built. But as soon as he started talking, she was delighted.
"He had electrifying, piercing eyes," said Ragsale, now 56. "I just wanted to know more about him. He has this charisma that I believed he could charm anyone. During dinner, she bursts into a loud, deep laugh. I just felt like God put it there, you know?
Within two weeks, Monjack took her to London and proposed insideHarrods department store.She began talking to wedding consultants inCliveden House,luxury hotel in the English countryside, popular with the royal family. They spent some time at a villa in Monaco he told her belonged to Cary Grant.
He bought her expensive clothes and a new cell phone, which she said he only told her to use to call him. Sometimes he joked about her weight - "Honey, I don't know if you should wear those jeans" - but she tried to ignore them. She had never seen him work and didn't know where his money came from, but said she didn't think she was asking.
“I am the perfect victim because I come from the South. We're leaving the door open," she said in a thick Alabama accent. “I had problems with it. I just put the bag on the floor and keep the clothes in the store and people say, "Put on this bag, someone will steal it!" So I had that attitude. I just trusted him.
Ragsdale said it was in Monaco that Monjack's behavior began to change. One night he wanted to have sex and she didn't. She said he was pressing the issue and was upset. Then, she claimed, he suddenly burst into tears and told her he had spinal cancer. He said his trips to Monaco were due to the fact that he was receiving an experimental shark cartilage treatment from a doctor who "saved Elizabeth Taylor's life". (Alison Bennett, a film producer unfamiliar with Ragsdale, says on the HBO Max series that Monjack also told her about his cancer treatment.)
According to Ragsdale, Monjack was returning from treatments with a large bandage in his hand, saying he felt nauseous. "He always wanted to massage his back and that made me feel more affection for him, although I didn't notice until it was over," she said.
She said a few weeks later he revealed more disturbing news: if he wanted children, his doctor said he had to do so now, before cancer treatments ruined his chances of fertility. Already engaged, Ragsdale ditched birth control and quickly became pregnant.
But pregnancy was not easy. Ragsdale continued to vomit. Her friends were so worried about her that one of them flew to Monaco to help, Ragsdale said. Seeing how emaciated she was, Ragsdale's friend insisted that Monjack take her to the doctor. She said he did and she was admitted to Princess Grace Hospital Center for about a week. She said she later asked the hospital for a history of her blood tests, but was told that records dating back more than two decades no longer exist.
After leaving the hospital, Monjack arranged for Ragsdale to return to New York. When she entered the apartment, she called her fiancé to inform him that she had arrived safely.
"Hi?" she said she asked.
"Simon, I did it," she replied. "I'm here in New York and..."
She thought something was wrong with the phones. She kept calling him, but he didn't answer. After 24 hours of silence, she decided to call her mother, Linda Monjack.
"I said, 'Linda, where is Simon?' She said, "Well, I'll tell you, Elizabeth. A private investigator has been tracking him for weeks and he's cancer free. He didn't have surgery. He bled me dry. I gave him all the money I have and will inherit."
Linda Monjack did not respond to detailed inquiries sent to her by The Times through Simon's brother James. But on the docuseries, she says she didn't think her son would deliberately lie to someone about his cancer. As Simon's father died at the age of 29 from the disease, his mother says he "probably believed" he had the disease. She also admits that she gave Simon "large sums of money. But I gave willingly and voluntarily. Probably stupid, but he didn't cheat me anyway.
As for Ragsdale, she said a conversation with Monjack's mother convinced her to sell the engagement ring - she was paid about $3,000 for it - and use the money to fly to Florida to be with her sister. There, she said, Linda Monjack visited her and was "precious" by taking her to the children's store and buying her various things for her unborn child.
Simon Monjack and Ragsdale never met again.
"I am a survivor of Simon Monjack, and I believe Brittany did not live him," she said. "She needed someone around to say, 'Go to the doctor. You have pneumonia. You are sick. Look at you. “He made me sick to my stomach until my friend came in.
Records suggest that Murphy was more susceptible to illness as his body was weakened by eating disorders and the potential use of prescription drugs. Hill implied that when she became ill, Monjack was so concerned about "her appearance and what the paparazzi would say" that he did not want to take her to the doctor.
"I think she was in such a state of mind - and to be honest, it stopped her from growing up to be a child star - that she didn't know how to make her own decisions. So she trusted the people around her to make decisions for her,” concludes the director. “When he shows up, he really spins. It will provide stability, care and comfort and is not going anywhere. Who wouldn't fall in love with someone who adores you? I think even when she died, she didn't know who Simon really was.
Meanwhile, Ragsdale hopes his story will help Murphy fans understand why Monjack took the actor for granted.
"Because they loved Brittany so much and she no longer has a voice - and I'm not saying I'm Brittany's voice, but I have a history with him," she said, starting to cry. "There's something there. Already. It might sound cheesy and like, "Oh, she just wants to make a lot of money from the book," and yes, of course she does. But can this shed light on the woman's situation? This is what I really want. Because such men exist. These narcissists, sociopaths - they're out there preying on us."
This story originally appeared inLos Angeles Times.
FAQsWas Brittany Murphy ever married? ›
Brittany Murphy's estate is valued in $10 million
Tony Bertolotti says that her death 13 years ago left a lot of unanswered questions and said that he "has no idea where the "Clueless" star's $10 million fortune is."
In the HBO Max series, Murphy's co-stars and filmmakers allege that Monjack was interested in Murphy for her money and also controlled various elements of her life: He allegedly urged her to lose weight, forbade her from doing intimate scenes with other men and cut out her agents and managers.What was Brittany Murphy's net worth when she died? ›
Brittany Murphy was an American actress and singer who had a net worth of $10 million dollars at the time of her death in 2009.What happened to Brittney Murphy's husband? ›
On May 23, 2010, Simon Monjack was found dead in his Hollywood home, just five months after Brittany Murphy's death in the same house. He died from pneumonia and anemia, which was eerily similar to his wife's cause of death. Monjack was soon buried next to Murphy in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles.Was Brittany Murphy married to Ashton Kutcher? ›
The Just Married costars began dating months after wrapping the film. They fueled engagement rumors in 2003 when they wore matching rings, but they ultimately ended their relationship after five months. Kutcher remembered Murphy after she died of pneumonia in December 2009 at age 32.
Brittany Murphy's Brother Believes She Was Killed To Cover Up Theft of Her $10M Fortune. It's been 13 years since the world was rocked by the sudden death of actress Brittany Murphy. And the situation got even more shocking and mysterious when her husband, Simon Monjack, died just five months later.How long did Brittany Murphy live in her house before she died? ›
It was a house she had lived in since buying it from Britney Spears in 2003. Brittany was only 32 years old at the time of her death, and just five months later her husband, Simon Monjack, was also found dead in the same house, with a very similar cause of death.
On December 20, 2009, Murphy died at age 32 under disputed circumstances. The coroner's verdict was pneumonia, exacerbated by anemia.How old was Simon Monjack when he died? › What is Murphy's net worth? ›
According to Celebrity Net Worth, in 2023 Eddie Murphy has a net worth of $200 million.Who owns Brittany Murphy's estate? ›
But he did say he does now know who has been controlling her estate: her mother Sharon, a journalist and Murphy's doctor. The trio has been overseeing it in a private trust, and neither its contents nor expenditures have not been made public, the Sun reported.Who inherited Brittany Murphy's money when she died? ›
The beneficiary of her estate was not her husband, Simon. Instead, it was Brittany's mother, Sharon. Sharon was living with Brittany at the time that Brittany passed away, and it appears that Simon was pushing Sharon into the same corner that he was doing to Brittany.What did Ashton Kutcher say about Brittany Murphy? ›
In his first in-depth public comments about Murphy's death, Kutcher told ABC's "Nightline," "I don't think you can [make sense of her death]. I don't know if you try to make sense of it or not. I just celebrate who she was.How did Ashton Kutcher react to Brittany Murphy? ›
Ashton Kutcher told ABC News a few months after Murphy died that there was no sense to be made of what happened, so he would just try to remember her as she was. "I just celebrate who she was," the actor said. "She was like the person who walked in the room and she was always the first person to dance.How did Ashton Kutcher feel about Brittany Murphy? ›
"I learn something from that girl every day," Kutcher said about Murphy early in the Just Married press tour. "She is a pro. ... She just brings it, man. She's really, really awesome. She makes me smile every day.What was Brittany Murphy's last meal before she died? ›
The 32-year-old Clueless actress died suddenly on December 20th, 2009. According to investigators, her last meal consisted of noodles, Thai leftovers and Gatorade.
The newspaper reported at the time that Murphy drafted a will and trust after she married Monjack, a screenwriter, in 2007. The will and trust, which left her entire estate to her mother, included her multi-million-dollar Hollywood Hills mansion.
Did Eminem and Brittany Murphy really date? "Yup, yeah, sure," a slightly flustered-sounding Murphy replied when David Letterman asked her if sparks flew off-camera during her 2002 appearance on The Late Show.Did Brittany Murphy buy Britney Spears house? ›
Murphy died in the main bathroom of her Hollywood Hills home — which she moved into in 2003 after purchasing it fully furnished from Spears for $3.85 million.What was Brittany Murphy's illness? ›
Shortly after her death, the L.A. County coroner concluded that Murphy died as a result of pneumonia combined with anemia and "multiple drug intoxication" from prescription and over-the-counter medication. "She was really sick with pneumonia, very anemic, and she was taking medication," Coroner Asst.Did Brittany Murphy have children? ›
Brittany didn't have any children during her life. The actress had several high profile romances but never went on to have kids of her own.Did Ashton Kutcher marry Mila Kunis? ›
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis met on "That '70s Show" but didn't start dating until years later. Both actors were in serious relationships with other people before they rekindled in 2012. Kutcher and Kunis got married in 2015 and they have two kids together.Did Ashton Kutcher date Rihanna? ›
A source told The Sun at the time: “The flirting began as soon as Rihanna and Ashton met and swapped numbers. That moved onto texts and arranging to meet…. They are two single people having a fling, so thought it would be best to meet in secret.” “Rihanna has told friends he's funny and cute.
It has not been publicly reported how much Kunis was paid for the 2010 film, but we do know she was reportedly paid $6 million to appear in Friends With Benefits the following year.Could Brittany Murphy have been saved? ›
Now-retired medical examiner Dr. Lisa Scheinin, who performed Murphy's autopsy, says in the doc that if the actress was taken to a doctor or hospital just days before her death, she could have most likely been saved.When did Brittany Murphy lose weight? ›
In 1999, Murphy, already a rising star, started visibly losing weight and dyeing her hair blonde. Kathy Najimy, her King of the Hill co-star, recalls Murphy saying, “That's what I've been told: If I want to be considered a leading lady, I have to lose a lot of weight.”How old was Brittany Murphy when she met her husband? ›
The Clueless actress first met the British screenwriter when she was 17, but the pair didn't start dating until 2006. The couple tied the knot the following year, which surprised many of Murphy's family and friends, including her King of the Hill costar Kathy Najimy.
Brittany Murphy's Relationship History Included A Grammy Winner & Fellow Actor. The late Clueless star was engaged twice before marrying her husband, who died of similar causes.Where did Brittany Murphy live when she died? ›
In 2009, Brittany Murphy died in her Hollywood Hills home at the age of 32. Five months later, her husband, Simon Monjack, was also found dead on the property. Since then, mysteries continue to surround their shocking deaths — and their former home has become a key player in the confounding story.How old was Brittany Murphy when she was in Clueless? ›
At 17, she made her film debut as Clueless' wide-eyed transfer student Tai, memorably wringing every ounce of humor out of the 1995 teen classic's immortal burn “you're a virgin who can't drive.” (“The way she delivers it just gives you chills,” says Clueless director Amy Heckerling in What Happened.)What happened to Brittany Murphy's mom? ›
Murphy's mother, Sharon, has lived in seclusion since the death of her daughter. The documentary explains how she was left with little after Simon died, as when she attempted to sell diamond jewelry he had had made for her, she quickly learned it was all fake.What actress and husband died from mold? ›
Brittany Murphy and Toxic Mold. Brittany Murphy's death was ruled as accidental. The autopsy said that Brittany had anti-seizure medications in her body when she passed. Strangely enough, her husband reported seizures to his doctor shortly before he died.Where is Brittany Murphy's grave? ›
English: Grave of Brittany Murphy at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.Who is richest comedian in the world? ›
As the co-creator and star of his self-titled sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld has raked in serious bucks through syndication and streaming deals. Other projects such as "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" and various stand-up specials have also added to his bottom line.
|S.No.||World's Richest Actors||Net Worth|
|1||Jerry Seinfeld||$950 Million|
|2||Tyler Perry||$800 Billion|
|3||Dwayne Johnson||$800 million|
|4||Shah Rukh Khan||$730 million|
Kevin Hart – US$450 million
Celebrity Net Worth estimates his share of the company alone could be valued at US$552 million before taxes.
Brittany lived in her house for a little less than six years with her husband, Simon Monjack. The actress was just 32 when she collapsed in her bathroom after having flu-like symptoms for a few days.
The resemblance between Lili and Brittany has naturally made some wonder whether the two are related, but they aren't. They may look alike, but not because they share any genes.Who were Brittany Murphy's friends? ›
The two-part documentary, which was produced by Blumhouse Television, features new footage and interviews with Murphy's close friends, including actresses Kathy Najimy and Lisa Rieffel, and those who worked with her in the months leading up to her sudden death in 2009 at the age of 32.Did Brittany Murphy have a funeral? ›
Brittany Murphy's family and friends celebrated her life at a private Christmas Eve funeral.How many kids did Simon Monjack have? ›
Following Murphy's death, it was revealed that Monjack had two children who he'd kept secret from his wife as well as his close family members.Does Murphy have a child? › Did Brittany Murphy ever have kids? ›
Brittany didn't have any children during her life. The actress had several high profile romances but never went on to have kids of her own.Who does Murphy have a baby with? ›
Eddie shares two kids with Paige, five children with ex-wife Nicole Mitchell Murphy and a son from a previous relationship with Tamara Hood. Eddie has another son with Paulette McNeely and one daughter with pop star and TV personality Melanie “Mel B” Brown.How old was Brittany Murphy when she met Simon Monjack? ›
Though some tried to warn Murphy about her husband, she insisted that he was her soulmate up until her untimely death in December 2009. Since Murphy was just 32 years old at the time, suspicions soon fell on Monjack — especially since he was said to be “controlling” during their marriage.Which celebrity has the most kids? ›
Mia Farrow is mom to 14 children. She has four biological kids—twins Matthew and Sascha and son Fletcher with ex-husband André Previn, plus Ronan with ex Woody Allen—as well as those she has adopted: Lark, Summer and Soon-Yi Previn, along with Moses, Dylan, Tam, Thaddeus, Quincy, Frankie-Minh, and Isaiah Farrow.Did Murphy get pregnant? ›
Bachelor Nation continues to grow! Lesley Murphy revealed that she is pregnant with her and husband Alex Kavanagh's second child.
Eddie Murphy has 10 children with five women. —Paulette McNeely (his then-girlfriend) is the mother of his first child: Eric Murphy. —Nicole Mitchell (whom he was married to from 1993-2006) is the mother of five of his children: Bria, Myles, Shayne, Zola and Bella.Who got Brittany Murphy's inheritance? ›
She had a pension plan and a bank account, and she never put the Trust on those accounts. That means when Brittany passed away, those assets went directly to her husband, Simon.Why didn t Brittany Murphy go to the hospital? ›
They were always afraid the paparazzi would find out if they were seen as sick and that it would hurt their job prospects in Hollywood. That was one reason Brittany didn't go to an emergency room that night, and it was an excuse for Simon not to call for help when he had seizures or another of his heart problems.